FIRST TIME HOMEBUYERS GUIDE
Purchasing a home for the first time is a big decision and a large transaction for anyone. But with the right guidance, it can be smooth, predictable and even fun. Knowing the basic steps of the home buying process is the best way to prepare yourself and prevent complications. Your Bediz Group Realtor can always go into more detail concerning each of these steps, as they are the true experts of this process.
Find the Right Realtor
Buying your first home can be complicated, and you want to ensure you have the best resources available. This includes having the best Realtor to represent you throughout the entire process. In almost every case, Buyers do not pay any commission, so there is almost no reason not to use a Realtor to purchase a home.
The Washington Post recently published an article on how to find the right Realtor for you. Our own David Bediz was interviewed for this article and we invite you to CLICK HERE to read the entire article. It has several questions to ask and tips when trying to find the right Realtor. Also, visit websites such as Trulia, Zillow & Yelp! and Angie’s List. The Bediz Group has 5-star ratings on all these sites and a Grade A on Angie’s List.
Ensure You Have a Lender
If this transaction is going to require financing from a bank, you’ll want to ensure you’ve spoken to a lender. They will help you understand your budget and get pre-approved for a loan. They will also provide you with a pre-approval letter. This is important because you will need to submit your pre-approval letter with your offer. If you don’t have a lender in mind, be sure to talk to your Realtor as they have established relationships with particular lenders. The Bediz Group works very closely with loan officers Hillary Legrain, Charlotte Yerkovich, and Steve Cohen.
Do Your Research
It’s important to know what you want most out of your new home and which of these items are negotiable and non-negotiable. This will serve as a starting point for your Realtor as they help you in your search. However, it’s important to note that two (or more) pairs of eyes are better than one. So while your Realtor is hard at work to find you the perfect home, it’s always helpful if you continue to research local real estate databases and websites on your own. It’s possible that you will stumble upon a place that looks interesting to you, but is far from the criteria that you originally expressed to your Realtor.
Get Out There
Your Realtor will set up an automatic email that will send you listings of homes that he or she thinks are the right fit and you should note which ones you like best. Let your Realtor know which ones you’d like to see in person, and they will set up showings for you. Remember, there is no set timeline for finding a house. It could take months and multiple showings to find the right place for you, or it could be the very first one you find!
It’s typical for a buyer to be cautious when they find a place they really like early in their search. If you want it, go for it! It might not be available to you tomorrow – especially in the D.C. real estate market. Similarly, don’t be discouraged if it takes months, multiple offers, and a couple bidding wars to finally get your dream home. Patience is needed in some of these situations, but your Realtor will stick with you and help you until those keys are in your hand!
Make An Offer
Once you have found the right home, it’s time to make an offer! This offer comes in the form of a rather large contract, which will be submitted to the listing agent (the Seller’s Realtor). You will need to be prepared to sign and initial several documents, which can be done by hand or electronically. Your Realtor will be able to advise you on the content of this offer (i.e. offering price, a closing timeline, and various contingencies that can be added to the contract). With your agent’s guidance, you’ll craft an offer that may win in a multiple-offer situation but also protects your interests, including your money, as best as possible.
You will also need to be prepared to submit an Earnest Money Deposit check with this offer. This check is a relatively small percentage of the overall offering price (typically 3-5%, but there is no standard), and it serves as security to the Seller that you will not break the contract. This money will ultimately go towards your closing costs, which will be presented to you before settlement. Closing costs are simply the fees for the overall services of settling this transaction and transferring title of this property from one person to another. The closing costs for every property are different but they are estimated at around 3% of the overall price of the home (for a condo or house – co-op closing costs are typically less).
The Road to Settlement
Ok, so now you’ve submitted the offer with the earnest money deposit and…great news! It was accepted by the Seller! The clock starts now to get a few things done prior to closing, which includes getting through the different contingencies of the contract.
One typical contingency is a home inspection, but not everyone elects to have this. If you do elect to have one, your Realtor will likely have inspectors that they work with and can recommend. The important thing is to get the inspector out to the property ASAP so that he or she can complete an inspection and deliver a report for you within the agreed upon timeline (typically this is one week or less). This inspection will inform you of the home’s current condition, and hopefully you’ll be happy with the results. However, if the inspection provides you with some results that you are less than thrilled with, you have the option to back out of the contract and take the Earnest Money Deposit back. The only money you would lose is what you paid for the inspector.
Another contingency that protects you regards the appraisal. An appraisal is ordered through the bank once they are notified that you are under contract on a property and you lock in the interest rate on the loan. The appraiser will come out to the property and collect data, and then create an appraisal report, which will be given to you once it’s complete. If it turns out that the appraisal comes back to be less than what you offered, then you have the opportunity to renegotiate your offering price if you include an appraisal contingency. The timeline for this is typically two weeks. It is important to note that an appraiser’s client is the bank, not the buyer or seller. Because of this, their opinion of the value is not easily influenced by either party. It’s also important to note that an appraisal is an opinion of value, which is based entirely on a subjective selection of a few recent sales that he or she deems comparable to the subject property. Because of these subjective decisions, appraisal valuations between different appraisers can vary by as much as 20%! Thanks to this possible variation, it’s important to look at an appraisal as a tool to getting a loan, and not a judgment as to whether you’re getting a “deal” or not. Buyers who cancel contracts they would otherwise be happy with usually end up regretting their decision, since they often can’t find another property they like as much as the first one.
And finally, the financing contingency is very important and will require effort on your part, too. Your lender will require various financial statements and documents from you in order to provide you with the loan. You will need to be in constant communication with your lender to ensure that they have everything that they need from you. The timeline to get your financing in order is typically around 3 weeks.
Once all the contingencies have been fulfilled and settlement is scheduled, it’s time to get packing! If you are using a moving company, you’ll need to schedule this far in advance. Also, if you moving into a condo or co-op community, be sure to check with the property manager regarding move-in policies and to reserve the loading dock and/or elevator in the building. If your moving truck will be parked on the street, you will need to purchase reserved parking signs from DCPD (DC only). This needs to be done at least three days in advance and you will need to go to the police station to pick up the signs. Also, make sure the utilities are switched to your new home and start on the day of settlement. DC and Maryland properties use Pepco and Washington Gas; Virginia properties use Dominion Electric and Washington Gas.
The day is finally here where you settle on your property! Settlement usually takes about an hour, and the title company will be present to review all the settlement paperwork with both parties. You will also receive a HUD-1 Settlement statement, which is an overview of the purchase that includes sales price, loan amount, credits, taxes, and closing costs. You will need to keep this paperwork for your taxes.
After settlement has occurred and keys are in hand, it’s time to celebrate! Pop the champagne and enjoy your new home! You deserve it!
This article was written by Bediz Group Realtor Alison McCubbin. If you are looking to purchase your first home, contact us today to set up a confidential consultation with Alison, or any other of our talented agents.